The overlooked pandemic of antimicrobial resistance

7 Feb 2022


Author: Ramanan Laxminarayan, founder and director of the Centre for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy (CDDEP) and GARDP Board Chair


Preview: As COVID-19 rages on, the pandemic of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) continues in the shadows. The toll taken by AMR on patients and their families is largely invisible but is reflected in prolonged bacterial infections that extend hospital stays and cause needless deaths. Moreover, AMR disproportionately affects poor individuals who have little access to second-line, more expensive antibiotics that could work when first-line drugs fail.


Previous attempts have been made to accurately estimate the global burden of AMR, both to focus policy makers on the extent of the problem and to identify geographical areas with the greatest burden. These estimates have been challenged by unreliable data on resistance and infections and the difficulty of attributing burden to AMR specifically. Patients with longer hospitals stays are more likely to have resistant pathogens than those with shorter stays. Is it AMR that causes these longer hospital stays or is it just that patients who stay longer happen to pick up drug-resistant infections? How can we distinguish between patients who died with resistant pathogens from those who died of resistant pathogens?